/You can lift more than that. HEAVIER this time. That’s it. MORE/
Each and every person has a voice in their head. Some people personify it as an angel and a devil on each shoulder. Some people are plagued by their inner demons. Others just call it “common sense” or that “little voice in your head” that never quite goes away.
/More like a sadistic taskmaster to me/ Ojiro Mashirao mused as he carefully racked the 30 pound dumbbells to reach for the 35’s, his tail simultaneously dropping the 50 to grab at the 60.
As each week passed at UA, Ojiro more and more found himself occupying the vast expanses of the school’s state-of-the-art gym. Something about the jolting clang of weights clashing with the gentle humming of treadmills really worked to set his mind at ease.
Seeing progress in the mirror wasn’t too bad either. He had always been athletic, but with the amount of sparring and extracurricular gym-time, he had packed on quite a bit of lean muscle, giving his generally slender physique a cut frame. It was gratifying to see such hard work pay off in the form of broadened shoulders, stronger arms, and a powerful but still flexible tail.
He wasn’t quite a show off like Kirishima or Tetsutetsu, who loudly boasted to each other, lifting up their own shirts and then each other’s, flexing their washboard abs and taking selfies in the dirty mirror, but he certainly took quiet moments alone to hype himself up in front of his own reflection.
No matter what time of day he decided was appropriate for a workout, it seemed the designated hard-heads of the Hero Course somehow found their way in to share the entire gym at the same time as him.
/And they never rack their weights/ he sighed. As soon as they had vacated the area, Ojiro put away his own weights before making sure to casually meander his way over to their vacated spot and rack their discarded dumbbells like he had 500 other times.
/And people think /I’m/ the animal/
/You /are/ the animal, monkey boy/ his brain helpfully added, making sure to clarify the point so it really stuck.
/Yeah, yeah, chill out/
He took a quick swig from the water bottle he always took with him before setting it down next to the rack with a sigh.
Arguing with the voice in his head proved to be a constant routine, a back and forth of verbal power that Ojiro didn’t always win, much to his chagrin. It was hard sometimes to be constantly surrounded by overpowered monsters like Bakugou Katsuki, or with black sheep powerhouses like Todoroki Shoto without comparing himself.
He sighed again, fingers reaching up to tousle his own blond hair before sneaking a peek at the clock. 10:35 PM.
“It’s getting kinda late, I guess,” the blond muttered to himself, wondering whether he should grab his weights again or if he should make his way back to the dorm for a nice hot shower. The thought of steam and scalding water wiping away the day’s grime almost made his tail wag.
/Wait, when was the last time I shampooed my tail?.../
“Are you finished with the dumbbells, Ojiro?”
His eyes blinked open.
/Shit did I space out?/
He shook his head and gave a quick tsk. His brain would no doubt scold him later for such a mindless lapse. He turned to answer and ended up having to crane his neck upwards to angle appropriately.
Shoji Mezo gave a subtle nod to his shorter classmate before gesturing towards the weights. One of his appendages was taking the form of a mouth to speak with him, per usual. “Finished?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course,” Ojiro responded quickly, not hesitating to remove himself from the way of his huge classmate.
Even though he was the youngest in the class, Shoji towered over just about everybody, reaching about 6’2” and essentially scraping the sky, from Ojiro’s view of just under 5’7”. If he wanted to, Shoji could probably rest his chin on top of Ojiro’s head without effort.
/And we’re only first years. Imagine how tall he’ll be by graduation/ He shuddered at the thought.
Ojiro had been watching Shoji for quite a while. /Not in a stalkerish way/ but just as a quiet observer of the silver-haired giant’s everyday life. Ojiro admired how he was soft-spoken, but honest, each word carrying significant weight in a conversation or otherwise not said at all.
/Of course, the physical view ain’t too bad either/. Piercing eyes and a masked face gave him an aura of mystery, compounded with his nonchalant verbal etiquette gave him an air of importance without detracting from his good guy demeanor.
Furthermore, he was strong as hell to boot. He was clearly no stranger to the gym as Ojiro constantly ran into him at the end of his workouts, coincidentally timing them right as Shoji began his. He had seen in the physical tests too just how strong the silver-hair truly was, able to grip with enough power to crush a man’s skull. His six arms were massive from the sheer endurance training he did and his wide barrel chest was something Ojiro envied above all.
He always ended up at the gym super late though. Something about using too many weights all at once and not being able to share.
Ojiro fondly remembered coming a little late for a workout one evening to find Kaminari and Ashido fake crying on a messy floor. Apparently the two had made quite the mess of all the weights and as his own form of vigilante justice, Shoji had grown enough extra hands with his Dupli-Arms to lay claim to all of the dumbbells and medicine balls all at once, holding them all out of reach, despite his classmate’ crocodile tears.
“Are you sure? It doesn’t seem like you were-”
“YEP! No worries I’m /definitely/ done,” The blond snapped, broken once again from his reckless daydreaming by simple questions.
“Alright. See you later, then,” Shoji responded, clearly unfazed. He passed his companion and gave him a small pat on the shoulder as he did. Ojiro learned early on that these subtle touches were always given in place of words, his subtle show of affection.
But he always hoped they could maybe be something more. Something just for him.
Ojiro turned on his heels with the full intent of leaving as fast as he could, but he turned his head just as Shoji grabbed at the heaviest possible weights and lifted one in each of his arms. The blond was stunned, having never actually /watched/ Shoji workout before.
/Holy shit he’s curling over 300 pounds!/ he thought, mouth slightly agape.
The sight was truly impressive as his classmate effortlessly curled half a dozen dumbbells all at once, arms rippling and thick veins sticking out prominently all over. His broad chest heaved as weights each took their turn coming in or getting raised higher before being brought down again, only to be replaced by another equally heavy one in a grinding rotation of metal.
Sweat had already begun rolling down his giant body, damp spots quickly forming on his pale olive tank top. It seemed like with each grunt through his ever-present mask, more sweat accumulated and rolled in and out the curves of his pecs, his biceps, and the dips of his collarbones.
/Pick your jaw up off the floor/
The blond righted himself immediately before slouching back into his natural dejectedness. The differences between them were obvious.
/I could never do something like that/
Ojiro forced his eyes away and put his head down. /What a man. So strong and capable. He’s quiet, but it’s no wonder everyone likes him./
/How much deodorant do you think he needs for a workout when he has 6 armpits?/ His mind giggled. /Probably doesn’t even matter to you. Why don’t you get a little closer and find out for yourself?/
And Ojiro FLUSHED.
Full-body, head-to-tail pink took over him in a flash. Heat rose and threatened to swallow him, a thin lacquer of sweat already filming again on his brows.
/It was just the workout from earlier/ he lied. /yeah, that’s it/
It certainly wasn’t the goliath of a student that proceeded to curl twice Ojiro’s body weight behind him. Not the gargantuan arms rising and falling like the tide. If the blond didn’t get out of this /right now/ he was sure that he would get swept away by those waves.
/Cause life’s a beach, right?/ his brain supplied.
He took a couple deep breaths, willing the salmon flush to recede from his cheeks.
Deep breaths. Eyes closed. In. Out. In. Out. In-
A heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder. In the midst of his panic, Ojiro hadn’t noticed the lack of grunts or when the silver-haired giant had (thankfully) racked his weights. /Definitely/ hadn’t noticed him practically sneak up behind him and /DEFINITELY/ hadn’t noticed him reaching to make contact.
The flush returned.
/Dear God, he’s so close/
“Ojiro, you were just standing there. Are you okay?” Shoji gave him a gentle shake before turning him around. Meanwhile Ojiro made every attempt to avoid direct eye contact, practically begging the pink glow of his skin to find a new home elsewhere.
“Y-yeah, I’m fi-“
“You look a little red. Are you feeling alright?”
Another of Shoji’s huge arms raised and Ojiro felt his knuckles slowly brush away his bangs and lay surprisingly gentle against his forehead.
It felt like he had forgotten how to speak.
The giant took a step closer and crouched down lower, eyes finding the same level as the blond’s.
“You feel warm,” he decided.
/And you look sinfully hot/ Ojiro had to practically bite his tongue to prevent such a curse from leaving his mouth. He could only stare slack-jawed back at the inquisitive gaze his classmate was giving him.
“If you have a fever, we should head back to the dorm. You ought to rest.”
/Back up/ his brain hissed. /He just thinks you’re sick. Get your mind out of it./
“Aw, thanks for the concern,” he mumbled. “I think I just overworked myself. Didn’t drink enough water. I’m probably just dehydrated.” Give an excuse.
His tail meekly wrapped around his feet as he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand and he forced a smile.
/It’s weak, but it’ll do/
“Really, Shoji, thanks, but I’ll be fine,” He coughed, trying to sound convincing. “I just need a shower and I’ll be fine. Really. I promise.”
/Convince who? That was pathetic/
Regardless of Ojiro’s capacity as an actor, the grip around him loosened and the giant relaxed. Shoji gave a gentle sigh through his mask and Ojiro almost relapsed as the faintest tickle of his breath brushed his face.
/Please hold me/
“enjoyyourworkout,” tumbled out in a single word as Ojiro extricated himself from the slack grip and slipped out the door of his gym, remembering to throw a wave back at the last second as a sign of good faith to the man who he had just left in the dust behind him.
He rushed into the dorm and bounded up the stairs, throwing half-baked greetings at those in the common room before rushing and slamming his door shut as soon as he passed the threshold. He took the moment to slowly sink to the floor, tail cushioning him as he buried his head in his hands.
/Forgive me, God, for I am trash/
He wasn’t very good at praying, but for whoever was listening, it would have to do.
He shook off the rising embarrassment and managed to shower and make his way to bed, climbing under the covers as quick as he could.
“Wow, could that have gone any worse?”
/You forgot to shampoo your tail./
/And you forgot your water bottle at the gym/
/A clutz /and/ bad with boys. We sure lucked out/
Ojiro threw his face into his pillow to drown out the boisterous thoughts and a single muffled yell at himself for being so useless. He rolled onto his back and sighed heavily.
“Is he?...do you think that I-…”
Pleading. He had to resort to begging.
With himself. His own useless brain.
/Not a chance/
Exhaustion grabbed at him, begging him to succumb to heavy lids and deep, shaky snores. Begging him to recover from the long, strenuous workout, even if there had been a couple hiccups along the way, namely the presence of a certain silver-haired giant that he may or may not have a big, fat crush on.
He rolled and rolled, trying to find a comfortable position for himself before finally swinging his tail between his legs and up towards his chest. He reached out and pulled it close to him, snuggling it tight as he had on so many other nights like this, when his desires had nearly gotten the better of him and when he had almost built up the courage to ask Shoji to join him. He sighed.
His classmate was a likeable guy. Friendly too. Ojiro couldn’t really say that Shoji always had a smile on his face because he wore a mask, but the sentiment was still nice. The friendly pats on the back were always welcome, even if they never lingered as long as Ojiro would’ve liked.
/Can we become closer?/
He sighed again, imagining what it might be like for his feelings to be returned in full. Imagined what it might be like for him to be able to share secrets and smiles and tender moments with the gentle giant that Shoji is.
Imagined what it might be like to go to sleep holding someone like that. Waking up to someone like that. Talking and sharing nothings with someone like that.
Ojiro finally let his eyes flutter shut and he released his biggest sigh yet.
At the very least, he could still dream about being with someone like that.